Wednesday 20 May 2015

Tanka: Five Flowing Lines

A tanka, also known as a waka or uta, is a Japanese poem of five lines and 31 syllables.  It is similar to a haiku, but has two additional lines.

Line 1:  5 syllables
Line 2:  7 syllables
Line 3:  5 syllables
Line 4:  7 syllables
Line 5:  7 syllables

Here is a famous tanka written by a Japanese poet from 850 AD named Ono No Komachi.

The colour of the cherry blossom
Has faded in vain
In the long rain
While in idle thoughts
I have spent my life.

Here is Great Blue Heron by Thomas Martin:

I must tell you this bird:
long, thin legs, sharp beak
wading in a dappled stream
grayish blue, at home in Cypress
Curving skyward through Spanish moss.

For more information on how to write a tanka, visit

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